Paper Hearts the Musical (4 stars)

Sugary new musical about an independent bookshop and matters of the heart

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Paper Hearts the Musical

With their sharp decline at the hands of online retailers, independent bookshops are perhaps more than ever seen as the domain of the literary obsessed and the hopeless romantics. Paper Hearts the Musical, the new pop-folk bookshop musical from writer and producer Liam O'Rafferty, has literature on its brain, and romance on its mind.

Paper Hearts the Musical works through the tick-list of qualities expected for feel-good musical theatre: a foot-stomping finger-wagging first act closer, a charming set of underdogs whose only hope is a competition's prize money, and many appeals to the following of the heart.

The action follows bespectacled bookshop manager Atticus Smith (Adam Small). He is toiling on a magnum opus that he hopes will set him up on a life of literary stardom. The more Smith pours of his life into completing his tale of Stalinist Russia, the more the world of his novel comes to inhabit the stage, either in the form of whole scenes or hilarious juxtapositions.

The ensemble, under the direction of Tania Azevdeo, shift nimbly between instruments and characters, with bookshop owner Norman (Matthew Atkins) proving a particular highlight: often on hand with a brew and a wry inflection, he quickly establishes himself as an audience favourite.

With the spoken scenes often short and fast, the heavy lifting of unfolding the characters' motivations, aspirations, and heartaches is left to the musical numbers, which under the taut musical direction of Daniel Jarvis rarely miss their mark.

At its core Paper Hearts the Musical is an unashamedly sentimental show. It may not be great literature, but it is a sugar-laced musical offering that hits many of the right notes and brings smiles aplenty.

Underbelly Med Quad, 0844 545 8252, until 29 Aug, 6:40pm, £11--£12 (£10--£11).

Paper Hearts the Musical

  • 4 stars

Moon Rock Productions World premiere of uplifting new British musical set in a high street bookshop. Aspiring writer Atticus Smith lives avidly through his novel's characters until the arrival of the spirited Lilly Sprocket. With a contemporary pop-folk score performed by a company of actor-musicians, Paper Hearts is…

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